Published: August 21st 2005June 17th 2005
A sight you just don't see up north that often!
Hello from a Starbucks in the Mile High city of Denver, actually Littleton located 18 miles south of Denver. We last left off in the wonderful city of Nashville, TN. We departed Nashville on Monday morning on our voyage to Denver, Colorado for the Alison Krauss & Union Station concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater. We drove north through Tennessee, across Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas. The scenery was nothing short of spectacular. I will never understand how people could say the great plains are "boring" -- especially Kansas. April and I disagree wholeheartdly. Kansas is beautiful. It is beautiful in its vastness....its wide open spaces.....the rolling hills.....the fields (and fiiiiiields) of corn.....the cows grazing in the meadows, the big puffy clouds and don't even get me started on their sunsets! In all my travels I have never witnessed more beautiful sunsets as I have in Kansas (and we have been to Key West and Santa Fe which are known for their sunsets). The colors are a mix of pinks, blues and purples. It will take your breath away. It IS big sky country out here. Maybe April and I find it so beautiful because we are from the north and "city"
Welcome to Kentucky!
girls. The sky doesn't seem this big up north -- even in Vermont and Maine. It is just different.
Let me start with Kentucky. Driving through Kentucky on I-24 W and I-57 North is like driving through a living, animated, barn yard postcard. The hills are green. The grass is long and blows in the wind. You drive past barn after barn after barn. All are abandoned and nothing more than shacks -- but are gorgeous in their own right, painted in bright reds and blues. You just know you are in Kentucky. You can imagine horses in stables or racing at the Kentucky derby. Picture it: Row after row of white picket fences, rolling green hills, picturesque barns, a class of ice tea, and Kentucky's beloved Bluegrass music playing and you have the whole Kentucky experience. It has that "down home" country feeling to it. You can picture people having big 4th Of July BBQ's, barn fires, old country stores with American flags flying, people playing the fiddle and washboard.....you get the idea. That is what Kentucky is to me. All this coming from a quick "drive by" impression. We will definitely have to spend more time here
One of the many barns on the highway from Kentucky to Illinois.
After Kentucky you enter a small section of Illinois. This state doesn't do too much for us. After the beautiful scenery in Tennessee and Kentucky, Illinois seems kinds drab. The green not so green. The grass looks old. Then again, it is only "highway scenery" --- I am sure there are sections of Illinois that are breathtaking ----like all states--- get of the highway and explore the small roads...the 2 lane highways---and beauty will abound. We do love Chicago -- now THAT is a city. We were there a year or so ago and I hope to visit again soon.
Before too long you are on I-64 west heading toward St. Louis. From a distance you can see the St. Louis Arch, but if you follow I-64 west to I-70 west you will get up close and personal with the arch. You not only drive right by the front, you drive around it. You enter a tunnel and when you exit, the Arch is RIGHT there in front of you and to the right of the passenger's seat!! The Arch has lost most of its fan fare but to me it is still a spectacular sight.
Did you know there is a special shaped elevator in the arch that takes you to the top?? Wow...thanks, but no thanks..lol! St. Louis, from what I have heard, is down on its luck. It was once a thriving city but now it is very quiet, almost dark. You don't feel a vibe when you are there. There is no excitement, quite the opposite of Kansas City, Missouri which is at the end of I-70 right before you cross the line into Kansas.
Kansas City is a very cool city. Yes, it is most famously known for its BBQ, but the city itself just feels...ALIVE. It feels new and young. The stores are hip. The roads are clean. It just feels good to be there. A few years back we spent time exploring the city but this time we didn't have that luxury. Kansas City makes a great stop on your way out west. We ended up stopping for the night in some small town less than 15 minutes from Kansas City. It's a good thing too because our a/c broke.....again! UGH! When we woke up on Tuesday we took the car to a Firestone to have the a/c
Beautiful corn fields in Kentucky.
fixed and breaks looked at. This place gets the "a**hole" award so far on this portion of the trip. They tried to charge us close to $700 for ONE break and some part replacement....luckily April and I don't have idiot written on our head, so we passed on the break recommendation, even as he tried to scare us about going to Denver, and just had him fix the a/c which cost close to $200 in itself, but we didn't care...as long as we had cold a/c and were able to continue our trek to Colorado. After leaving we crossed the beautiful Kansas state line. How can I describe Kansas? My first impressions are that it's clean, very American, truly America's heartland. It has beautiful rolling green hills, lots of corn field, lots of cows and lots of SKY! Even if the sky is perfectly clear you could swear there is a tornado in the distance. It just feels like THEE PLACE for a tornado and no, this is not because of the whole Wizard Of Oz image -- its because of it's very flat and open terrain -- perfect place for tornados to form if conditions are right. April and
I stopped for dinner at a Cracker Barrel restaurant and it was the first time I felt "out of place" --- like a foreigner almost. Most people were very light skinned and extremely conservative looking. There were also a lot of elderly people. I felt like I had a sign around my neck reading...."I'm not gay, but my girlfriend is...." or something like that...lol! I was "on guard" and ready for the, "WE'RE COUSINS" come back. I am probably over analytical and a nervous nut....but I didn't feel comfortable enough to truly be myself. With that said, the people we did encounter were VERY nice and the scenery in Kansas more than makes up for any of my own insecurities. We stayed the night at a Hampton Inn and then got an early start Wednesday for the last few hours in Kansas before arriving Denver in time for our concert. The last few hours scenery in Kansas was awesome. As flat as the Texas panhandle, but more alive with cows. We even saw a wild turkey and emu on the highway!!
By the time we crossed into Colorado (and mountain time), the sky above was looking mighty threatening. On
Kentucky was just amazing!
the right hand side the sun was out and on the left hand side it was dark gray with lightning. Ape and I thought we would see a tornado for sure, but luckily we did not (although it would be veeeeery cool from a distance). By the time we reached our hotel in Littleton, Colorado the sun was shining and it was a perfect 74 outside! We checked into Marriott's Town Place & Suites, once again at the incredible travel agent rate of $49 per night, freshened up and headed out to the Alison Krauss concert.
I couldn't believe I was a.) in Colorado, b.) going to Red Rock's Amphitheater--a venue I had wanted to see a concert at after seeing U2's Sunday Bloody Sunday video and Under a Blood Red Sky concer when I was a just a kid c.) about to see Alison Krauss & Union Station, in my opinion, one of the best groups on the planet. I almost had to pinch myself, but April's smile reminded me that I wasn't dreaming. Have I mentioned what an amazing smile she has? :)
We ohhhhhhed and ahhhhhed over the mountainous scenery and within 10 minutes were
How lucky was I to catch the sun setting behind the St. Louis arch?
heading up (and UP) the mountain toward Red Rocks Amphitheater. The scenery was startling and magnificent. We drove up the road to the will-call window, picked up our tickets and continued our drive UP the mountain to the parking lot. We were SO high up we could see the Denver skyline 20 miles away!!! We parked the car and walked toward the venue...OH MY.....were we high up....wow......what a work out for two girls from little Rhode Island, but we did it and it felt AWESOME! We walked up this HUGE incline to the area where they sell t-shirts and snacks and then down 40 rows to our seats located in row 29! Don't forget, we would have to walk UP the 40 rows on our way BACK to our car...lol. We must've looked like such CITY GIRLS as we trudged along, but we survived and it was actually not SO bad. I would do it again and I know my April would too!
As I sat in the amphitheater I couldn't help but thank God for my blessings. I was SO grateful and SO happy to be where I was. I looked around at the breathtaking (literally..lol) scenery and
got tears in my eyes. We were SO high up and I was looking down and across at the city of Denver and mountains all around me. The people were so pleasant and looked like they had just stepped out of an L.L. Bean or REI catalog. I felt like I was in heaven. I loved where I was. I was living in the moment, something I think many of us do not do. I noticed the sweaters of the people around me (sweaters in June), the different color berkenstocks, the hip and modern hair cuts of the older folks, the loving moms and dads with their teenage children, and in the distance I smelt burning leaves....the smell of fall.....it was June 15 and I was smelling fall. The temp had dropped to the low 60's/high 50's and there was a slight breeze. The atmosphere was just perfect. I was here. I had made it to Red Rocks Amphitheater. Wow. Just as I was basking in my good fortune I saw Alison Krauss and Union Station walk out. They instantly started what was to be a wonderful night of music. The sound was the best I had ever heard at
ANY concert (Jimmy Buffett a close second). It was like we were listening to a CD, not live singers and musicians!! Alison was 110% perfect. Her voice sent chills up and down my body and her sense of humor made me laugh that "hearty" kinda laugh. Alison is truly silly. She is crazy in the best sense. She teases the guys in her band something fierce and the crowd and I love it..lol. She has the type sense of humor I am attracted to. That "I don't care what people think" silliness. She will say the most offbeat things....especially offbeat coming from someone as famous and rich as she is. She started performing when she was 16 and is now 33. I just feel so blessed to have discovered her music back when I was in highschool. I hope to grow old listening to her music as its released throughout the years. The concert was pure perfection. The band members are adorable and so talented. That Jerry Douglas is something else on the dobro guitar!! Alison is also great on the fiddle. As it got darker out, the lights in Red Rock came on and I found myself living inside
Words cannot express the sunsets in Missouri and Kansas as these next pictures will show...
the scene I had daydreamed about for so many years. I imagined what it must've been like that June in 1983 when U2's Under A Blood Red Sky was filmed. I remember it was raining out and people looked freezing but like they were having the time of their lives and here I was.....22 years later.....making my OWN memories at age 29....surreal? COMPLETELY! I took in the entire experience. The smells, the two drops of rain that I felt, the stars that lit up the sky, the glow of Denver in the far distance, the glow of the red rocks illuminated by the lights, the quarter moon above the top of the mountain, the smell of spilt beer, pretzels and wool....and mostly how GOOD I felt. I wish I could've bottled up that feeling. The concert went until 10:30pm (slightly after). They started at 8:00pm and played 2 1/2 hours straight! WOW! We left before the last few songs to avoid crowds and could still hear her as we got closer to our car. April and I looked at each other and high fived....WE DID IT!!!! YAAAY! What an experience. Another one of those defining moments of our summer getaway.
Yesterday we worked (and worked) before taking ol'bessy, our jeep, to Brakes plus. We knew one of our back breaks needed to be replaced and probably the other as well. The nice men at Brakes plus looked over our car and said it would cost $320 for BOTH brakes and some other stuff.....this is LESS than 1/2 the cost the man in Missouri told us it would cost. I told April we should send him a copy of our bill. The Firestone right outside Kansas City, Missouri is such a rip-off place they even tried to pull one over an elderly woman who had to be close to 85. She went there to have one headlight replaced and they came out and told her she had THREE that were broke and that it would cost offer $50 to fix! She was so appalled she left and didn't have them fix anything. GOOD FOR HER! What a bunch of jerks. They feature these sorts of instances on Dateline and 48 Hours. I just don't know how people can sleep at night knowing they ripped someone off. YUCK! Anyway, while our jeep was being fixed we walked over to Starbucks, which
is where I am now. I love Starbucks. I don't drink coffee, but I love their hot chocolate and cider drinks. I just love the atmosphere here. So laid back and "earthy" -- very nice.
(later in the afternoon...)
Hello again. I am picking this blog up from where I left off this afternoon. We just returned from seeing the new Batman Movie (Batman Begins). WOW -- what a movie. This movie beats out Spiderman hands down, and April and I LOVE Spiderman. It is such a smart, moving, emotional movie with excellent acting, no cheesy effects and a wonderful story plot. It is great and a true action movie in all the sense. I hope this movie gets the respect it deserves because I have never seen anything quite like it.
(the next afternoon...)
Hello! It is Friday, 1:35pm and I wrapping up this blog to post on the internet. We are working today and tonight will head to downtown Denver and visit it's NEW (and from the sounds of it), very cool new country music club/restaurant (can't think of the name at this moment) -- OR The Buckhorn Exchange for dinner and maybe some
It just goes beyond explanation...
shopping afterward at Denver Pavilions. I find one of our favorite pastimes is hanging out at a Boarders or Barnes & Nobles reading or working on the computer. We aren't into the whole nightclub scene so a nice bookshop or coffeehouse suits us just fine.
Tomorrow is Rocky Mountains National Park, Estes Park and Grand Lake......I can hardly wait!!!
Des & Ape
There are more photos below